Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz told the 380 men, women and children preparing to enter the Catholic Church that they are called to see with the eyes of Jesus Christ.
The archbishop presided at the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremonies at St. Bernadette Church in Prospect, Ky., March 1.
Among his listeners were 174 catechumens — people who have never been baptized. They have been preparing for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, which they will receive this spring.
The congregation also included 206 candidates — people who were baptized in another Christian tradition. Their baptisms are recognized by the Catholic Church. They will receive the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist this spring.
During his homily, Archbishop Kurtz asked the congregation to think of the first time they heard the name Jesus.
He first heard Jesus’ name from his mother as a child of two or three, the archbishop said.
“I heard her pronounce the name of Jesus and it was very important to her. I knew that if something was important to my mom, I’d better listen,” he said.
The archbishop noted that he’d recently bought new eyeglasses. His optometrist said that the new glasses will allow him to see “beautifully.”
In the same way, “You and I are asked to put on the glasses of Jesus Christ, we are to see the way he sees.” the archbishop said.
Some will ask, “‘How do I know how Jesus sees?’ We know through the Gospels, we know through the word of God … we know through the seven sacraments of the church,” he said.
“Some of you will be receiving baptism, many of you confirmation, first holy communion, first penance. You’re going to receive so many sacraments you won’t know what’s happened,” he said, eliciting laughter from the congregation. “But you will be seeing with the eyes of Jesus Christ.”
After entering the church, candidates and catechumens will need their parish community, “the Body of Christ,” to help them, he said. But they will also help others.
The archbishop urged them to find out “who you are to be Jesus Christ to.”
“We don’t have a place in the church for people who want to sit and watch,” he said.
Catholics are called to fully participate in Mass and, when we leave church, take Christ to others. To find out how to do that, each person needs to be “creative,” needs to pray and ask God to give them wisdom.
One way to do it is by loving the people Jesus loves — “your family, the people you work with and the stranger,” said the archbishop. The least of what we do for others, we do for Jesus, he added.
Among those entering the church this year is the Ashcraft family — Felicia, Clifford and their eight-year-old son Carter from St. Thomas More Church. Clifford Ashcraft and young Carter were never baptized. Felicia Ashcraft was baptized as a teenager in a Christian church.
They were introduced to the Catholic faith a few years ago when they were looking for a school for their son and found St. Nicholas Academy, 5501 Newcut Road. The teachers and staff at St. Nicholas quickly became like family, said the Ashcrafts.
“The more we were involved (with the school) the more we wanted to become a part of it (the Catholic faith),” said Clifford Ashcraft.
Felicia Ashcraft said Carter loves St. Nicholas Academy and learning about the Catholic faith tradition. When he came home from school, “he would sing songs and talk about what he did at Mass. His excitement and enthusiasm inspired us,” she said.
Clifford Ashcraft said his son’s love of the faith made him take the step to join the church.
“I thought that ‘if it’s good enough for him then it’s good enough for me,’ ” he said.
Other faith traditions don’t spark his interest in the way the Catholic faith tradition does, he said.
“It feels good,” he said as he sat in St. Bernadette Church following the service March 1. “It feels good to belong to something that’s been around as long as this has.”
The family is enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Thomas More. Felicia Ashcraft said when she attends Mass she feels like she’s a part of a “family” and that she’s a “participant.” Getting ready to be received into the church gives her “overwhelming joy.”
“It’ something we can share with Carter that he will have for the rest of his life. Coming in as a family makes it stronger,” she said.
Julie Stieren, who serves as director of religious education at St. Thomas More, has been helping the family prepare to enter the church.
“They will be future leaders in the church. They are here for the right reasons,” said Stieren during an interview following the March 1 service. “You can see the strong family dynamic and we need more families like that.”